Personal Branding 101

http://mashable.com/2009/02/05/personal-branding-101/

The above article from Mashable is a very insightful one that discusses the most ideal ways that we can market ourselves to others. According to personal branding expert Dan Schawbelany adjective, description, or compliment from fellow co-workers becomes part of who you are – part of your brand.

Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan.

A few months ago, I finalized my decision to uproot my life in California and move to New Zealand in October to continue my career and build an international network. I was told by a New Zealand recruiter through LinkedIn that I needed a way to stand out and separate myself from the rest of the native applicants (especially as a foreigner). He mentioned I should do a video resume with answers to common interview questions in order to garner more attention from prospective employers. I’m learning NZ is a couple years behind California (and all of the U.S., for that matter) in regards to media and technology, which I could definitely use to my advantage in hopes of building a career out there. All I need to do is put all the pieces together. Well, easier said than done.

Just because you build a personal brand, doesn’t mean you’ll have prospective employers flocking to you. Nothing in life is that easy (and if it was, then what’s the point?). The best things in life never come easy and instead throw you unexpected curveballs… but that’s the joy in them. Ways in which you overcome challenges help define your personal brand, especially since they allow you to use the logic and skills you possess. The success of your personal brand is all about communication, networking, and spreading your wealth of knowledge to others in order to make yourself known and respected.

My personal brand is more valuable than ever right now. In truth, your personal brand is always crucial for your success. Here are a few do’s and don’ts based on my experiences thus far:

DO

  • Write up a spreadsheet and/or list of your life ambitions and goals. To keep it simple, start out with a 2-5 year one. You can always add your “blue sky goals” (10 years), but the most important thing is to update this based on your professional AND personal goals. Remember that you obviously can’t map out your exact future, but you can point yourself in the right direction and go from there. And it’s perfectly fine to want one thing at one point and then do a complete 180 the next year. A quarter-life pivot (refraining from calling this a quarter-life crisis) sometimes can strengthen your personal brand if you truly know how to sell yourself.
  • Keep a personal blog or official site to advertise who you are, your values, and the type of work you specialize in. The look and feel of a personal site defines that individual’s personality and image. In regards to blogging: the more you write, the more you become better at it (no, duh?).
  • Share a variety of personal (appropriate, of course) and professional interests in your social media profiles and/or resume/CV. Countries such as New Zealand are keen on knowing your personality and what types of hobbies you enjoy outside of work life– plus, it’s always fun to market yourself by saying that you’ve done something interesting and unique like becoming scuba certified. So go on, talk about your side projects, side organizations, volunteering efforts, online courses, photography, etc. that you partake in. As long as it’s not boastful, this is a valuable component of your personal brand.
  • Carry around business cards wherever you go. True, you can always go home and add someone via LinkedIn if you forget your cards, but it’s so much easier to put a face to a name once you receive that card. Plus, it emphasizes the strength of your personal brand when you have business cards on hand (at least, in my opinion).
  • Update your LinkedIn constantly. No one likes adding someone who only has 10 connections or whose headline shows that his/her last job was in 2010. Neglecting a social media site seems almost as bad as neglecting a new puppy– treat it with the respect and care it rightly deserves. LinkedIn is a simple and efficient way to build and upkeep the reputation of your personal brand.
  • Clean up your Facebook, Twitter, and just about any other social media site you may have forgotten you even signed up for. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many “working professionals” out there post drunkie photos or statuses of a “party-rocking weekend in Vega$ full of shot$.” You know better. And if you don’t, the only personal brand that gets tarnished is yours.
  • Request to remove certain sites from Google’s search engine results. Do you really want an old teeny-boppy Xanga page to pop up as a top search result every time a recruiter Googles your name? I’ll admit that I need to heed my own advice on this one more, especially since it’s so simple to resolve: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=164734
  • Follow up with e-mails efficiently. It’s extremely important to do this, especially when job hunting. Yeah, you’re busy. So is everyone else– there’s no excuse for an extremely delayed reply, especially with smartphones. And when you’re e-mailing recruiters or connections in another country, your response times with e-mails become the most important component of your personal brand (next to your CV/resume).
  • Keep a portfolio of your work: writing samples, designs, photography, publications, posters, marketing campaigns, etc. This should also be updated on a regular basis to stay consistent with your personal brand.

DON’T

  • Ever complain about or downtalk a current or past company, co-workers, and/or leaders. It’s a terrible reflection on yourself, and what point does it serve? It only makes you look like an idiot with bad rapport.
  • Ever retweet to an extreme, even if they’re high profile users or companies. This might make it seem like your Twitter account is just full of spam and lacking your own brand. Besides, do you want to have a Twitter account full of quotes, or would you rather build your own reputation and formulate your own words of wisdom based off your own fresh ideas? Know when to halt on the RT-ing.
  • Ever share your personal problems online. We’ve all seen the weird statuses on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… it seems trashy to advertise the negativities in your life so freely. If you ever do this, do so with caution.
  • Ever ignore questions, tweets, or opportunities to converse with others on any form of social media. Treat others as you wish to be treated, and all will be well. Besides, it’s always nice to pay it forward. Chances are, someone reaching out to you with a specific question about your career is probably in the same shoes you were in a few years back. Help those in need, and others will help you when you’re in need, as well. It’s also a great way to market your brand and prove how trustworthy you are, as well as a potential mentor.

Bottom line: Use social media and other elements to your advantage, since it ultimately defines your identity to the rest of the world. Your personal brand should be something you’re proud of, and only you have the power to reflect that.

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